(STATS) -The FBS must be getting wiser to facing Cinderella, so the FCS “upsets” weren’t as scintillating in this year’s first full week of college football as in past years.
All the cheerleading in the world by FCS fans can’t change the fact subdivision teams usually don’t beat the larger FBS programs.
Reigning national champ James Madison was actually favored over East Carolina before its 34-14 win. The upsets came from Tennessee State, which beat Georgia State 17-10; Liberty, which held off Baylor 48-45; and Howard, which stunned UNLV 43-40 behind true freshman quarterback Caylin Newton, Cam Newton’s younger brother.
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Last year, national powers Eastern Washington, Northern Iowa and Richmond, as well as Albany, posted opening-week wins over the FBS.
Here are five takeaways from Week 1 of the FCS season:
– The losses in FBS-FCS games included some unsightly scores among teams ranked in the STATS FCS Top 25: Texas Tech 56, No. 5 Eastern Washington 10; Utah 37, No. 8 North Dakota 16; Mississippi State 49, No. 14 Charleston Southern 0; Kansas State 55, No. 15 Central Arkansas (0-1) 19; Tulane 44, No. 19 Grambling State 14; and Army West Point 64, No. 22 Fordham 6. It’s unlikely the FCS will match last year’s 10 wins over the FBS, which tied for the fourth-most in a season.
– Not surprisingly, the best performance by a conference came from the Missouri Valley. Second-ranked North Dakota State, No. 4 South Dakota State, No. 20 Illinois State, No. 25 Western Illinois and South Dakota, which might be worthy of a national ranking, won by an average of 49 points. Ninth-ranked Youngstown State, last year’s national runner-up, took Pittsburgh to overtime before falling 28-21. But also give credit to a good first week for the Ohio Valley Conference, whose success included Eastern Illinois’ last-second win in MVFC territory at Indiana State.
– There was some feeling that Montana, the New York Yankees of FCS programs, was flying under the radar in the preseason. Having finished just 6-5 and with a losing Big Sky record last season, the Grizzlies weren’t filling many preseason Top 25 ballots. But with 17 returning starters and some transfers coming in for coach Bob Stitt, they might have deserved more attention simply from the program’s history. The Griz got the necessary result with a 45-23 win over Valparaiso, but it was a struggle for three quarters against a struggling non-scholarship opponent from the Pioneer Football League. A loss to Washington should come next Saturday and a win over Savannah State (a rout, right?) will follow that, so the non-conference schedule may not help the Griz’s playoff resume. Add in a fan base that likes to question Stitt’s job security and a cloud could hover over the program this season.
– Third-ranked Sam Houston State won its Hurricane Harvey-altered matchup against No. 7 Richmond 48-34 Friday night, and, as usual, quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe sizzled with the sixth 400-yard passing game of his career plus four touchdown passes. The fast offensive tempo and the numerous weapons combined for 683 yards, but they may not have been overly impressed in Harrisonburg, Virginia (James Madison) and Fargo, North Dakota (North Dakota State). The big question of the Bearkats’ season is, can they get to the next level against the last two FCS champions? It’s all that remains for the Southland Conference power, and it won’t happen unless the Bearkats improve their defense, which allowed Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta to pass for 546 yards and five touchdowns.
– Speaking of James Madison … wow! The Dukes will go unbeaten in the regular season if they continue to play the way they did in a 34-14 thumping of East Carolina. Cardon Johnson was unstoppable in rushing for 265 yards, including two long touchdowns, and he was supposed to be their second-best running back. Whew!